27 May 1919 – Topher to Gertrude

27 May

Damascus 27/5/19


Dear Mother

Don’t be alarmed at the above address, but I am on a trip to Assyria. And various other parts. Fearfully interesting but what a strenuous journey. Nothing but change trains and packing and unpacking one’s kit. Sometimes one might thank you for an active service again. I have bought various things, two rather nice rugs, which I will try and send home, they can be used but not given away to Ben or others for there new houses etc. I shall have them in mine when I get one. Also some other small things, an Arab head dress which is rather curious, also two brass plates inlade with silver & copper, really beautiful work.

I go on to Beirut tomorrow for a day and then back to Ismailia. I met some friends from the 20th Deccan Horse tother day up here, just off down to Egypt to be demobilized, they all enquired tenderly after Dick. The scenery here in the train over the Lebanon Hills is marvellous, and I have taken umpteen photos so if they are any good I will send some along. Mountains covered with snow, while in the train it is so hot one can hardly breathe. All this show is worth seeing, and one does’nt always get such a chance.

I have heard no more about leave, they have treated the R.A.S.C badly it’s absolutely disgracefull. Some officers here came out here in 1915 and have been retained for the Army of Occupation. If you look at the map of Palestine you can see where I have been, by my rough sketch below

I have only marked the important stops, I will send a better sketch later on.

No more news, best love to all

Ever your loving son


And that’s the last letter we have from Topher.

He was made a Captain before he was demobbed. He moved to Kenya after the First World War and in the 1920s and ’30s the Kenya Gazette lists him as a “Settler P.O. Mukuyu”. At one point he and Paul registered the patent for an oil lamp with a rubberised base which was supposed to prevent it tipping over. At another time he bred “barkless dogs” for people in towns, presumably the African Basenji. This venture fell through with the news that “one of Topher’s barkless dogs has barked”. In 1952 Topher married Elizabeth Metcalfe Llewelyn. He remained in Kenya during the Mau Mau uprisings between 1952 and 1959 and after Independence in 1963. The Kenya Gazette records his home as being in Timau at the time of his death in in Mombassa in 1964 when he was 71.

In the letters, Topher is an elusive and sometimes pitiful figure, lacking the agency, charisma and good luck of his elder brothers. He’s even harder to see once he’s gone to Kenya. To my regret, I did not realise that Rosamund’s youngest son, Peter had stayed with Topher in Africa after the Second World War and I did not take the time to ask him about his impressions of Topher. I feel sorry for young Topher in France, but I wonder if I would have found adult Topher in Kenya rather a difficult man. 


Posted by on 27 May, '19 in About


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